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As seen by the kinesiologist, the human body is a highly complex machine constructed of living tissue. As such it is subject to the laws and principles of mechanics as well as those of biology. The principles of mechanics are directly applicable both to the movements of the human body and to the implements it handles. Principles of balance and equilibrium, motion, and the application of forces apply equally to people in motion as they do to rockets and wheels, gears and missiles. A study of the fundamental principles of mechanics as they apply to movement skills will aid the teacher, therapist, and coach in the analysis of skills for the intelligent evaluation of technique and correction of error. Applications in research can lead to the determination of the relative merits of existing techniques as well as to the development of techniques yet unknown.


Interest in mechanical analysis and study as part of physical education was due in large measure to the influence of three pioneers. C. H. McCloy, from the University of Iowa, toured the country in the late 1930s and 1940s giving lectures with demonstrations showing specific ways in which performance could be improved by the application of appropriate mechanical principles. He was the first to develop a course in the mechanical analysis of motor skills. Pioneer efforts in cinematographic analysis by Ruth Glassow at the University of Wisconsin also contributed to interest in the application of the fundamental principles of mechanics and physics to sports skills among physical educators in the United States. During this same period Thomas Cureton, whose undergraduate degree was in electrical engineering, taught mechanics of sports and physical activities at Springfield College. His research and writing at this time concentrated on the applications of physics to physical education and on the principles of cinematographic analysis (Atwater 1980). During the 1950s and early 1960s, research on the mechanics of sports activities increased in scope and variety as others became involved and as methodology and equipment improved, but it was in the late 1960s and early 1970s that a lively interest in the mechanical analysis of humans in motion emerged. Graduate programs designed to prepare specialists in the mechanics of human motion appeared, and the results of vastly improved research methodology, technology, and instrumentation became apparent in a growing body of literature. There was a new area of study that many have named biomechanics of sport and others have called mechanical kinesiology.


In the branch of science called biomechanics, the principles and methods of mechanics are applied to the structure and function of biological systems. Because biology is concerned with all living things, biomechanics is a very broad branch of science, and the biomechanics of sport is only one of the applied areas in which applications are made of the same common core of knowledge and fundamental research found in physics, mathematics, anatomy, and physiology. Other fields of applied biomechanics include industrial engineering and ...

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